Calico Acts

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The Calico Acts (1690–1721) banned the import of textiles into England, followed by the restriction of sale of most cotton textiles. The English East India Company quickly embraced the demand for calico, importing exotic textiles from around the globe into England and creating competition for domestic textile factories. The calico question was one of the major issues of National politics between the 1690s and the 1720s. Parliament began to see a decline in domestic textile sales, and an increase in imported textiles from places like China and India. Seeing the East India Company and their textile importation as a threat to domestic textile businesses, Parliament passed the Calico Acts as an attack on textile importation. Dissatisfied with the smuggling of outside textiles after the original Calico Acts; in 1721, Parliament passed a stricter addition to the original Calico Acts, this time, prohibiting the sale of most cottons, imported and domestic (exempting only thread and raw cotton), and promoting the sale of wool. In that decade, the UK was importing 1.5 million pounds of cotton; in another 70 years (1790s), the UK was importing 30 million pounds of cotton a year from India.


1. Woodruff Smith, Consumption and the Making of Respectability, 1600–1800